I want to share a story about an email I received recently from a young freelancer who writes for the same local newspaper as I do. In that email, he frantically apologized for misidentifying a mascot in his high school basketball game story from the previous night – he apparently referred to them as the Panthers instead of the Raiders.
No one, not even the copy desk, caught the flub before going to print. So it's not like he was the only one to blame. But he was going on and on about how horrible he felt and that he understood if we decided to cut ties with him.
When I read his email, I couldn't help but laugh – not at him, but rather the situation. Finding errors in your copy isn't fun, and I've freaked out plenty of times during my 20-year career over mistakes I've made. To me, it's as if I let the entire world down. And in many ways, I still go pretty hard on myself.
That's the way this poor kid was reacting. He was correct that the mistake shouldn't have happened, but he legitimately thought we'd stop using him because of one mistake that we ultimately were able to fix in our online edition of the story.
This was my chance to tell him everything would be OK and offer encouragement.
Below is an excerpt from my response to him:
I know you are beside yourself with frustration given your mistake last night, but the fact you noticed it, took ownership, and then sent an email to us apologizing shows you truly care about your craft. ... At the end of the day, the mistake is what it is, and it's unfortunate. Just try not to make the same mistake again. And above all, don't lose any sleep.
In many ways, I acted like I was writing to my younger self. I've had plenty of mentors give me similar advice, and I know I'm a better storyteller now than I was even a year ago. Still, you can never hear too much encouragement. And clearly, this young gentleman needed to hear a little more than usual.
I just hope my words helped him regain some of his confidence.
Thanks for reading! If you'd like to learn more about how to remain confident as a writer, here's an older blog I wrote about five ways writers can handle perfectionism. And as always, if you're a business owner in need of an extra set of eyes to ensure what you are putting out there is mistake-free, give Edit This® a call.
*STEVE GAMEL is the President & Owner of Edit This, LLC, a writing and editing services company located in Denton, TX. Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.